Christmas Day Dinner Surprise

Continuing our staycation holidays, we awoke on Xmas morning ready to continue our celebrations.  Normally we have oatmeal for breakfast – I mean almost every single morning.  But this time we splurged on a full “American” breakfast with bacon, eggs, whole wheat toast, OJ, and coffee.  Afterward, we went out for a nice long walk because our bodies just weren’t accustomed to all of that … goodness.  It was pleasant out – brisk but not cold – so we ended up making it an unanticipated four miler.  It wasn’t just the weather that kept us walking.  All the holiday lights and decorations were up and on while the streets and sidewalks were almost deserted.  Peaceful and cheerful is how I would describe the overall ambiance.

oenophilogical_xmas2016We had once again decided on an early dinner with the following as our menu.  Leafy green salad, cauliflower au gratin, cranberry sauce, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding.  The cranberry sauce and cauliflower had been made ahead (the day before).  Leafy green salad?  Just some chopping and dicing to be done.  The “new” dish for us – despite both of us having familial ties (however distant) to the British Isles – was the Yorkshire pudding.  We had a recipe but had never even tasted a Yorkshire pudding much less made one.  Those who have made this dish before will tell you that the key to the creation of the dish is the drippings from the roast beast.

Imagine my surprise when my sweetie unwrapped a beautiful, almost no-fat tenderloin of beef to put in the oven.  Tenderloin of beef is a beautiful cut of meat.  It was a very nice surprise on the one hand.  On the other hand, it’s lack of fat meant a lack of drippings.  No drippings, no Yorkshire pudding!  What to do, what to do, what to do?!

oenophilogical_yorkshirepuddingI told you in a prior post that we – especially me – are follow-the-recipe cooks.  But I didn’t want to just give up, so I hit the internet.  I read many articles and posts about Yorkshire pudding and substitutions.  I owe a debt of gratitude to fellow bloggers out there sharing their own experiences with Yorkshire pudding.  They gave me a solution.  Remember our big fatty American breakfast?  We had put the bacon fat into a container to be discarded, but it was still waiting in the fridge.  Hallelujah!

This time we got the meal on the table in a timely manner and enjoyed a Tempranillo from Spain with our Xmas dinner.  It was a very tasty meal, if I do say so myself.

Winemaker:  Manyana
Varietal:  Tempranillo
Vintage:  2015
Appellation:  Cariñena DO, Spain
Price:  $7.99

Notes:  Made by Bodegas San Valero, this was a dark burgundy-colored wine with a bouquet of berries, pine and a hint of mint.  I thought tannins were mild and body was medium.  Flavors I found included very ebullient berries (settling a bit with more oxidation), a touch of wood, some green herbal notes, and a nice finish that seemed to vacillate on my palate between ripe plum and prune.

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Vega Montán Mencía 2013

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something new.  That ever happen to you?

The other night my sweetie and I stepped out for dinner at a new casual Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood.  It was called Lucky Pot.  Well … I don’t know about that!  Didn’t seem like our pots had much luck in them because we weren’t exactly impressed with our dishes.  We were even less impressed when the owner’s young daughter – who was sitting watching TV in the dining room – started trimming her nails at a table near us.  OK, so not all new things turn out to be good.  Ha!  But we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t given it a try.

Still in the “new” mindset after our dinner, we wandered up to the local Whole Foods to consider a carry-out dessert.  My sweetie got cookies.  I opted for something different – and new to me.  This Mencía caught my eye.

Winemaker: Vega Montán by Bodegas Adriá
Varietal: Mencía
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Bierzo, Spain DO
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  A dark purple wine, this Mencía had earth, pine resin and dark fruit in the bouquet.  It was light-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and 13.5% alcohol.  This selection was more focused on non-fruit flavors which made it an interesting experience for me.  Especially since it was my first Mencía.  On the tongue I caught plenty of woody tannins, pine tar, hints of leather, baking spices as well as some cherry and cranberry.

Pallas Tempranillo 2013

What an interesting label this wine has. It’s a picture of a bunch of rocks.  That’s all – just rocks.  Are they not-so-subtly telling us something about the “tierra” or terroir in the area?  Could be.  This red wine hails from the area known as Castilla – La Mancha and is categorized in the “Vino de la Tierra” classification which is just below Denominación de Origen or DO and above plain old table wine.

The vineyard’s name, also interesting to me, is another name for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom OR a form of the Spanish verb pallar.  Pallar means to extract or glean.  Which is the basis for the vineyard name?  Heck if I know!  Maybe both inasmuch as a person with wisdom is able to extract or glean pertinent information from raw data and make it useful.  Yes, I know I’m a bit of a word geek.  Can’t help myself: I love language.  Of course, I also love wine which is the purpose of this blog.  So I’ll get on with it.

Winemaker:  Pallas by Finca Las Cruces
Wine:  Tempranillo
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color was very dark garnet with tinges of purple.  It had an earthy bouquet with scents of pine, blackberry and quinine.  Medium-bodied, this Tempranillo had good acidity and medium tannins.  At 14% alcohol it was what I consider dry.  On the palate, the flavors I tasted were woodiness aplenty, blackberry, some pepper and quinine.  I thought it had a fairly bitter affect overall, so I would recommend pairing this wine with a meat dish rather than serving it at a cocktail party.

 

Basqueing in Friendship, Food, & Wine

I’ve mentioned my friend and fellow Wine Ranger Heather in previous posts.  She and I have been friends for … let’s just say a long time, OK?  Over the summer we’ve been busy with summer stuff and just hadn’t managed to get together and kibitz like we should.  Luckily, a couple of weeks ago we had the chance to correct that and catch up at a local restaurant named SER.

SER is owned by Josu Zubikarai who hails from the Basque area of Spain.  As their website explains – “Raised in San Sebastian, the Basque Country’s capital city, Josu began his formal training as a chef at age 17, working his way through the ranks in various restaurants, initially in the Basque region, but also moving around and exploring other areas of Spain. He grew up working in his family’s restaurant outside San Sebastian, developing the passion and commitment he brings to SER today.”

Unlike so many of today’s trendy Spanish restaurants, SER is not a tapas restaurant.  Certainly, they have appetizers and some small portion dishes, but they are a Spanish “tavern” where you go to experience a gastronomical journey in a casual, friendly atmosphere.  We sat out on their patio (seen above) and enjoyed ourselves immensely while we ate our way across the menu.  Interested in a wine journey as well as a foodie experience, we tried the following selections from their wine list.

Viña Galana Garnacha 2012
Tierra de Castilla, Spain

We found this Garnacha a very fine red to accompany meat dishes, although we noted that it was somewhat lower in acidity than others we’ve had before.

Domaine de Menard Cuvée Marine
Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Côtes de Gascogne, France

It had a very big bouquet redolent with sweet tropical fruit while on the palate is was quite a dry selection hewing primarily to citrus flavors.

Gañeta Hondarribi Zuri 2014
Getario Txakolina, Spain

This was a light white selection from the Basque region of Spain.  Reminding us of a Grüner Veltliner, it was poured at the table through an aerator from about a foot above the glass.  The nose held lots of lanolin with citrus notes, but the flavors leaned the other direction – mainly grapefruit with touches of lanolin.

Albero Spanish Rosé 2014

A few months ago I mentioned that I had tried a varietal wine made of 100% Bobal grapes.  I liked it, so my blog friend whirlaway let me know when they saw this Rosé made from Bobal mentioned in a Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer.  Thank you, whirlaway, for giving me a heads up!  I definitely wanted to see what this one was like.

Winemaker:  Albero
Wine:  Spanish Rosé
Varietal:  Bobal
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Utiel-Requena DOP, Spain
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   In the glass this wine was fairly dark for a rosé.  It was pink, yes, but a dark pink.  It was light-bodied, and acidity was OK.  On the palate this Albero seemed dryer than it’s 12.5% alcohol content would suggest.  Tannins were light with a late onset.  Flavors for me included tart cherry, spice notes and a bitter woody finish.  It was interesting to try a blush wine made from Bobal grapes.  I think, however, that I want to try some more Bobal red selections.  This Rosé was not my personal favorite.

Click on the picture to read the article online.

 

Montebuena Rioja Cuvee KPF 2012

What is a good way to celebrate good news at work?  When I say good news, I mean really good news.  Remember the trip to Montreal I mentioned?  Well, the participants rated the meetings and presenters (of which I was one).  I don’t know if it was that my attempt at dredging up college French was passable or what … but I got good “grades.”  And that makes me very happy.  So I decided to reward myself by tasting my first Rioja ever.  Yes, it’s true!  I know it might have been more fitting to have gone Canadian or French, but it was a serendipitous celebration.  I pulled from the bottles I had on hand, don’t you know!

Winemaker:  Montebuena (by Cosecheros de Labastida)
Wine:  Rioja Cuvee KPF
Varietal:  Tempranillo
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Rioja DOC, Spain
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Spanish red was more of an eggplant color with tons of bouquet redolent with barnyard, oak, earth, tangy dark berries and spice.  I really enjoyed the bouquet a lot.  Acidity was fairly high and tannins were also on the high side in this medium-bodied selection.  On the tongue, I thought this inexpensive Rioja was pretty yummy. I tasted rich dark fruit, tea leaf, tar, a hint of pepper, brambly tannins, as well as notes of baked rolls on he long finish.  In describing it, I wouldn’t call it chewy exactly but then I wouldn’t call it not chewy, either.  Is that confusing?  Well, try it and see what I mean.  I think it would be a nice accompaniment to a steak dinner, but there is plenty to enjoy by itself.

A Light White From Northwest Spain – Verdejo Rueda

Rueda is a wine region – Denominación de Origen (D.O.) – in the area known as Castile and Leon.  The Rueda D.O. is located northeast of the famous university city, Salamanca, and lies largely within the province of Valladolid.  It is, in fact, known for it’s production of wines from the Verdejo grape which (apparently originating in North Africa) began to be cultivated in Rueda around the 11th century.  I’d never had a Verdejo before, so I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.

Winemaker:   Marqués de Cáceres
Varietal:  Verdejo
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Rueda D.O., Spain
Price: $8.99 at Trader Joes

Notes:  The color of this Spanish white was extremely pale yellow.  It’s bouquet included scents of citrus, grass, and a hint of tart apple.  Acidity was good, and it was very light on the tongue.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Serving it chilled, I found the flavors very light as well with an overarching citrus and some grass.  As this Verdejo approached room temperature, however, it really opened up.  Flavors increased in intensity with a noteable core of citrus, some toasty warm spice notes, a bit of honey, and citrus peel on the finish.  Although I purchased my bottle at Trader Joe’s, this selection is available at a number of wine retailers in my area.